Two attorneys and two businessmen whose lives are interwoven with Appalachian State University’s history and accomplishments were honored by the Appalachian Alumni Association Oct. 21 during Homecoming 2016 activities. They are:
- Susan M. Branch ’99, Young Alumni Award
- James M. Deal ’71, Distinguished Alumni Award
- E. Hayes Smith ’82 and D. Kenan Smith ’84, Outstanding Service Award
Chancellor Sheri N. Everts acknowledged the contributions made by the recipients, saying, “The considerable contributions made to the university by these honorees have impacted our students, the Appalachian Community and the State of North Carolina in countless ways. We are very proud to bestow these honors on such loyal and deserving alumni.”
Young Alumni Award
Susan M. Branch ’99 of Charlotte earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing from Appalachian in 1999 and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in 2002. Branch is vice president at Ciena Capital, LLC in Charlotte, where she manages a distressed commercial loan portfolio and lender litigation matters. Branch is a member of the Junior League of Charlotte Board of Directors, Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the Charlotte Chapter of The Links Incorporated.
As a student, she was a member of Appalachian’s Student Judicial Board, Black Student Association Advisory Board, Pi Sigma Epsilon, Ladies Elite and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority – “I took advantage of everything Appalachian had to offer,” Branch said.
The Young Alumni Award honors individuals under age 40 for their exceptional service to the university and career accomplishments.
Susan Branch: I came to be a student at Appalachian. I came up here a lot when I was younger, I learned how to ski at Beech Mountain and attended some football games, a couple of concerts on campus. I didn’t really see Appalachian until I was a senior in high school and I came up to visit a friend that was a freshman here. I was just in awe by the beauty of the mountains, campus and the fresh air and was excited when I got my acceptance letter, I was ready to be a Mountaineer.
So my experience when I got up here, I wanted to take advantage of everything that App had to offer. I got involved from day one. I applied for the Black Student Association advisory board and they introduced me to other folks. Then I joined Lady’s Elite freshman year -- it is a female student service organization on campus. So I had a really great experience. I would say that definitely my most cherished organization and one that is still deep in my heart is I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha up here, Omicron Kappa Chapter. It was a great chance for me. I was lucky to be elected president of the chapter, it was quite an experience. I had a great time and it was definitely my most cherished memories. The Student Union is an important place on campus for me. It is where I spent a lot of time studying for exams. I sent my very first email ever from the computer lab on the second floor.
I specifically chose the Multicultural Center to film here because this was a safe place and a welcoming place. A place where I could connect with other students of color. A place where we could have forums and discussions about different things that affected us on campus. It is really nice to be back in this center and I’m glad to see that it is still welcoming and a safe place for students of color here today. I was raised, my parents taught me to give back to the community that you live in and that gives so much to you and I. that’s how I feel about Appalachian. Whether it’s my time, talent or treasure, I want current Mountaineers and future Mountaineers to have even better opportunities that I had when I was here. Being this year’s recipient of the Young Alumni Award means so much because this university means so much to me. I am thankful to the Alumni Council for the honor. I thank my parents for instilling in me the want to give back and how important it is to give back to a place that has given me so much. I’m happy to serve. I don’t do it for the recognition, but this is definitely an honor.
Distinguished Alumni Award
James M. Deal Jr. ’71 of Boone is an attorney with Deal, Moseley and Smith, LLP who has served the local community as well as Appalachian.
As one of Appalachian’s native sons, there’s not much about the university or the Boone community Deal doesn’t know, and if it comes to furthering education and opportunity, he’s likely been a major player.
Over the last two decades, he has served on the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors, Board of Trustees and Board of Governors. Additionally, he served multiple terms on the Watauga Board of Education and as a county commissioner. He was instrumental in the planning and construction of the LEED® certified Watauga High School.
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors graduates who have attained extraordinary career distinction and success, and demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership in the community.
Jim Deal: I’m standing in front of Chapell Wilson Hall and Chapell Wilson Hall was where I started high school in 1963. This spot is special for me for many reasons. I walked to school, the elementary school was on the other side of Chapell Wilson Hall where the parking garage is now for the library, and I walked to school and I walked back from school. I walked back behind the dorms, going down the street. I grew up on this campus almost. It was just part of my community, it is part of who I am. My experiences here, when I say Appalachian is part of my DNA, it is part of my DNA. It is part of who I’ve been since I was 8 years old. My mother was a graduate of Appalachian, three of her sisters were graduates of Appalachian, two of her brothers were graduates of Appalachain, my sister is a graduate of Appalachian, I met my wife at Appalachian. She is a graduate and she also has her master’s from here. Two of my children are graduates of Appalachian. The opportunity to go here in a community we grew up in at a university that we loved and has provided so many opportunities to us. It’s hard to express what that means. Appalachian provided me with a quality education, prepared me for the next step in my life and I made so many friends who I treasure today. Appalachian is a family. Appalachian has been a family since 1899.
I think the motto that the Dougherty brothers had when they founded this university was to make this area of the state better. I got a quality education at Appalachian. I have an obligation. You know one of my favorite verses in the Bible, I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit, but it says “to those whom that much has been given, much is expected.” Well, when you come to Appalachian, much is given to you and as a result of that much is expected of you. So the blessings I have received from Appalachian far outweigh what little that I have done for Appalachian. I appreciate the opportunity to serve. I appreciate the opportunity to try to enhance the student learning experience and to try and make this a better place for our people to work. I am fortunate enough to work with a lot of people who have done that far more than I ever will or ever have.
It’s hard to describe what the Distinguished Alumni Award means to me. The fact that I received this award this year, I can’t really express very well in words. It’s one of those things that I usually am really good at, talking. I’ve made a living talking. But this is one of those things that when I think about meeting my wife, think about my mother coming to school here, think about six children in her family coming to school here. I think about my grandfather playing cards with Dr. Dougherty. Dan’l Boone Inn was my grandfather’s home, he was a country doctor, and he and Dr. Dougherty were great friends. I am trying to think now what he would say with his grandson standing here on Appalachian’s campus and receiving this award. I think he would be proud of what Appalachian is, proud of what Appalachian has become and I think he would be proud of what Appalachian’s future is. And I’m so blessed and this is just another one of the blessing that I have been fortunate enough to receive.
Outstanding Service Award
D. Kenan Smith ’84 and E. Hayes Smith ’82 of Salisbury are brothers and business partners in Second Creek Development Co. They have provided backing for scholarships, career placement and athletics.
Hayes Smith has served on the Alumni Leadership Committee, the Parents Association Board of Directors, The Yosef Club Advisory Board and Walker College of Business Advisory Council. Kenan Smith is equally active, serving on the Alumni Leadership Committee, Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors and the university’s Board of Trustees.
Both have been instrumental in championing the Appalachian Energy Summit, an initiative that has realized more than $500 million in avoided energy costs for The University of North Carolina system.
The Outstanding Service Award recognizes individuals for their exceptional service to the university.
Hayes Smith: The way I came to Appalachian, well maybe both of us, our parents bought a place up here and I just fell in love with the mountains. I knew I didn’t want to go any other place except the mountains and of course Appalachian was one of the ones on top.
Kenan Smith: We just had a great time. We had a lot of friends, did a lot of social activities. We did attend class every now and then. We had a good time and just loved our time up here. It was a wonderful experience.
HS: The importance of giving back to our alma mater is because of the students. I think for me is just responsibility. I’m a Christian. It’s the responsibility that you need to try to do for others when you have the ability to do so. On the business advisory council, we are privileged to be able to have some of the students that are recipients to the Dean’s Scholarships and whatnot, be able to speak to us. There was one young man, I’m not going to mention his name, and he stood up in front of the group and he came from El Salvador, I believe. Basically they had to leave the country, violence was terrible and so he, his mom and dad left. This young man, no family ever in school before, he stood in front of us and he wept because of the impact the scholarship made on his life. Now he is working for a big bank. If you want to change a life, give. These kids, especially the ones working so hard and have the jobs, just give. It’s a privilege for us to be able to give.
KS: Giving back, I mean that’s what it’s about. The Bible talks about paying it forward and trying to help others in need. If you ever get to a point in your life, and I think we all can at times, to try to pay it forward to help the students. That’s been instilled in us from day one, that life's not about us. A sermon that I heard, that I thought was good, was called The Dash. Your date of birth is not important and your date of death is not important. Really all that is important is the dash in between. What you did with your life and how you tried to help other folks.
HS: We’re so thankful to help anywhere we can and we are so proud of our assistance with the Energy Summit because it has helped catapult Appalachian to notoriety amongst the nation... Last year we saved---
KS: We’re a total of 499 million in avoided costs by all the universities working together.
HS: And that’s just in the university system. That doesn’t include all these other, that was a total of 50, involved universities from all over the country. So everybody is learning from each other. We have so many faculty that are doing great things with sustainability...teaching. Again, when you’re in a place like Boone, North Carolina where all you have to do is look at the window and see all the important things that we need to protect for future generations.
KS: It is important to teach these students sustainability. We want to leave something for the next generation behind us, too. That’s so important and it goes back to life’s not all about us, it’s about everyone else too. So we need to leave something for the next generation. I think we are doing a great job of, these professors teaching our students that.
HS: We’re getting an award?
KS: I wasn’t told that. I was told this was the funnies.
HS: I was told this was a free lunch thing...
KS: That’s the only thing I was told there was a free meal involved. I didn’t know this was going to be a...well, it’s always an honor. But, as we’ve told many people, there are so many people that do so much more than we do and who pay it forward. Hopefully we can continue to just try to make a difference and appreciate the what I call an atta boy. Get patted on the back and go okay that’s great now let’s get back to work then.
HS: I think part of it too is it’s teamwork or, as we say at Appalachian, it’s a family. We do a little bit here and there, but we are working hand in hand with faculty and staff and administration on whatever it is. Again, it’s the fun stuff where you know you can help a little bit and may impact a student’s life. And again, that’s the really good stuff.
About Alumni Affairs
The Office of Alumni Affairs provides networking opportunities, affinity program discounts, alumni chapter gatherings and special events, merchandise and travel tour options to Appalachian State University alumni.
The Appalachian State University Alumni Association consists of nearly 124,000 living Appalachian alumni. Membership is free and open to all graduates of Appalachian. The association’s mission is to help alumni remember their Appalachian Experience and stay connected with current Mountaineers, and to work to ensure that those experiences are available for future Appalachian alumni by raising support for the Alumni Memorial Scholarship and The Appalachian Fund.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.